Heading into the 2017-18 school year, one-third of the Bulloch County Schools’ principals are African-American or Hispanic. That’s higher than the 30 percent of U.S. principals who were minorities and the 17 percent of minority principals in rural school systems nationwide in 2014.
Superintendent of Schools Charles Wilson did not point that out. But during the May 25 Board of Education meeting, he did present a series of graphs that gave percentages of teachers, principals and total employees of the school system, by ethnicity, in comparison to nationwide figures in the 2016 U.S. Department of Education report “The State of Racial Diversity in the Educator Workforce.”
That report cited national statistics on educator race and ethnicity from 2014. Wilson compared these with Bulloch County numbers from the same year. But a separate set of graphs he presented put the local percentages from 2017 up against the national numbers from three years ago. Wilson said he wasn’t claiming this was a fair comparison since no national 2017 numbers were available but that he did want to show the local progress.
“The point of this is just knowing where we are,” he said. “Questions were asked, and we’re dealing with facts.”
The board devoted its work session during the second meeting in May to another discussion related to a possible minority recruitment strategy for teachers and administrators. This has been a recurring topic since a minority recruitment committee met repeatedly in 2016.
Last fall, Wilson reported that the number of black teachers and administrators had increased from 11 percent to 14.2 percent of the Bulloch County Schools’ total workforce with teaching certificates during the previous four years.
His May 25 graph presentation used some of the same numbers, rounded to percentages without decimal fractions, and showed them in comparison to the national numbers.
In 2014, 87 percent of Bulloch County’s public school teachers were white, 11 percent were black, 1 percent were Hispanic, and 1 percent were other minorities. Nationally, 79 percent of teachers were white, 8 percent black, 9 percent Hispanic and 4 percent other minorities as of 2014.
By the 2016-17 school year, 84 percent of Bulloch County’s teachers were white, 14 percent were black and about 1 percent were Hispanic. Bulloch’s percentage of minority teachers as of 2017 is very close to the 16 percent level shown for “large suburban” school systems nationally in 2014, and higher than the 13 percent of teachers at rural schools nationally who were minorities.
The percentages of minority principals in the Bulloch County system as of 2017 was given at 27 percent in Wilson’s graph, with 20 percent black principals and 7 percent Hispanic, a number that would require just one Hispanic principal among the 15 schools.
However, four principals who are black, namely Dr. Evelyn Gamble-Hilton of Langston Chapel Middle School, Dr. TorianWhite of Southeast Bulloch Middle School, Tanita P. McDowell of Stilson Elementary School and Jennifer Wade of Mill Creek Elementary School, are under contract for 2017-18.
Additionally, Stephen Hoyle, the Stilson assistant principal recently hired to be principal of Southeast Bulloch High Schoolbeginning July 1, is Hispanic.
So, one-third, or more than 33 percent, of the system’s principals for next school year are members of ethnic or racial minorities.
With hiring still underway, school officials have not updated diversity numbers on teachers from those Wilson presented last fall.
Minority educators are in tight supply nationally, Wilson said, noting that this was a reason behind the national report.
Board members sought varied kinds of context for the numbers.
“This is quite interesting, but my main concern was when you look at the population of this county and the number of African Americans that we have here versus other races … and then you look at the number of African-Americans who may be employed here as teachers, or however you may look at it,” said District 5 member Glennera Martin.
Martin wants school-by-school data, she said. Noting that some schools employ far more minority teachers than others, she suggested finding out how those principals do it. Gamble-Hilton was mentioned specifically because Langston Chapel Middle School has the most minority teachers.
“To put these numbers into a context, any way you look at it percentages are just that,” said District 4 member Steve Hein. “You know, it may kind of read well, but what are the demographics within these subsets, meaning all? What’s the percentage of African-Americans, or blacks, within the country?”
People identifying as black or African-American make up 13.3 percent of the national population, but 31.7 percent of Georgia’s population and 29.4 percent of Bulloch County’s, according to 2015 U.S. Census Bureau estimates. People identifying as Hispanic or Latino, just 3.8 percent of Bulloch’s population, comprise 9.4 percent of Georgia’s population and 17.6 percent of U.S. residents.
But Georgia Department of Education reports identify more than 49 percent of the Bulloch County public school system’s students by racial and ethnic categories other than “white,” with 37 percent being African-American.
After the minority recruitment committee met several times in 2016 to propose ways to increase the number of minority teachers and administrators, Wilson in February presented a plan he gleaned from the committee’s work. It included hiring an assistant human resources director, creating a teaching-as-a-career program at Statesboro High School and supplying materials for a recruiting campaign. But the board delayed action because of concerns about the costs, estimated at well over $100,000 a year.
That hasn’t been brought back for a vote. Neither has a motion, made by Martin and seconded by Maurice Hill at the May 11 meeting, to hire a consultant to the help the board create a plan for hiring, recruiting, retaining and reclaiming minority teachers and administrators. Martin and Hill are the two African-American members of the board, and the other six members voted to table their motion.
However, the previous Statesboro Herald story on the May 11 meeting contained an error. It wasn’t Hein, but District 2 member Mike Sparks who made the motion to table.
“It was actually me that made that motion, and I don’t want Steve to get blamed for anything,” Sparks said during the May 25 meeting. “This is the reason that I asked for the motion to table it, so we could get this information to study and to look at, and also what Ms. Glennera is talking about.”
“I can see some progress,” Martin said at one point after Wilson’s May 25 report. But she continued to insist that the board take action on minority employment and not just talk about it.
Wilson has repeatedly differentiated minority recruitment, which would mean seeking a diverse range of applicants through job fairs, universities and teacher training pathways, from hiring quotas. The school system cannot hire on the basis of race or ethnicity and must also direct any efforts at retaining employees to all of them, not just minorities, he said.
“You have to be race-neutral,” Wilson said. “We can’t use race and ethnicity in any way to profile applicants, to profile people that are interviewing, to report on them, to set targets. … That’s what legal counsel has affirmed for me.”
After further discussion, staff members are to report back with more information, including comparisons of Bulloch’s minority employment numbers to those of similar-size Georgia school systems.